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Hurricanes, Capitalism & Democracy News/Business. Naomi Klein, Trevor Potter. (2012) Author Naomi Klein discusses Hurricane Sandy; Trevor Potter, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. (CC) (Stereo)

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Obama 9, Romney 8, Sandy 7, Naomi Klein 5, Trevor Potter 4, New York 4, James Inhofe 3, Katrina 3, Washington 3, Stephen Colbert 2, United States 2, Kohlberg Foundation 2, United 2, Santorum 2, John D. 2, Ronald Reagan 2, Colbert 2, Barack Obama 2, Polly Guth 2, Florida 2,
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  PBS    Moyers Company    Hurricanes, Capitalism & Democracy  News/Business. Naomi  
   Klein, Trevor Potter.  (2012) Author Naomi Klein discusses...  

    November 18, 2012
    5:00 - 6:00pm PST  

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company." the whole business model for the fossil fuel industry is based on burning five times more carbon livable planet. so what we're saying is, "your business model is at war with life on this planet. it's at war with us." >> and-- >> there's something fundamentally flawed about a system where in order to get elected the members of congress have to rely on the very people who are lobbying them day in and day out. because that's their principal source of funding, those lobbyists and the interests they represent. >> funding is provided by: carnegie corporation of new york, celebrating 100 years of philanthropy, and committed to doing real and permanent good in the world. the kohlberg foundation. independent production fund, with support from the partridge foundation, a john and polly guth charitable fund. the clements foundation. park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. the herb alpert foundation, supporting organizations whose mission is to promote compassion
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and creativity in our society. the bernard and audre rapoport foundation. the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. more information at macfound.org." anne gumowitz. the betsy and jesse fink foundation. the hkh foundation. barbara g. fleischman. and by our sole corporate sponsor, mutual of america, designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. ♪ ♪ ♪ welcome. the sherlock holmes of money in politics -- trevor potter -- is here with some clues to what the billionaires and super pacs got for their lavish spending in the most expensive election in our history. in a nutshell, you ain't seen nothing yet. but first, if you've been curious about why new york mayor
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mike bloomberg endorsed barack obama for re-election, just take another look at the widespread havoc caused by the frankenstorm benignly named sandy. having surveyed all this damage "bloomberg business week" concluded: "it's global warming, stupid: if hurricane sandy doesn't persuade americans to get serious about climate change, nothing will." well it was enough to prompt president obama, at his press conference this week, to say more about global warming than he did all year. >> i am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions. and as a consequence, i think we've got an obligation to future generations to do something about it. >> but he made it clear that actually doing something about it will take a back seat to the economy for now. he did return to new york on thursday to review the recovery effort on staten island. climate change and hurricane sandy brought naomi klein to town, too. you may know her as the author
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of "the shock doctrine: the rise of disaster capitalism." readers of two influential magazines to put naomi klein high on the list of the 100 leading public thinkers in the world. she is now reporting for a new book and documentary on how climate change can spur political and economic transformation. she also has joined with the environmental writer and activist bill mckibben in a campaign launched this week called "do the math." more on that shortly. naomi klein, welcome. >> thank you so much. >> first, congratulations on the baby. >> thank you so much. >> how old now? >> he is five months today. >> first child? >> my first child, yeah. >> how does a child change the way you see the world? >> well it lengthens your timeline definitely. i'm really immersed in climate science right now because of the project i'm working on is related to that. so you know there are always these projections into the future, you know, what's going to happen in 2050? what's going to happen in 2080? and i think when you're solo,
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you think, "okay, well, how old will i be then?" well, you know, and now i'm thinking how old will he be then, right? and so, it's not that-- but i don't like the idea that, "okay, now i care about the future now that i have a child." i think that everybody cares about the future. and i cared about it when i didn't have a child, too. >> well, i understand that but we're so complacent about climate change. a new study shows that while the number of people who believe it's happening has increased by, say, three percentage points over the last year, the number of people who think it is human caused has dropped. >> it has dropped dramatically. i mean, the statistics on this are quite incredible. 2007, according to a harris poll, 71% of americans believed that climate change was real, that it was human caused. and by last year, that number
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went down to 44%. 71% to 44%, that is an unbelievable drop in belief. but then you look at the coverage that the issue's received in the media. and it's also dropped dramatically from that high point. 2007, you know, this was this moment where, you know, hollywood was on board, "vanity fair" launched their annual green issue. and by the way, there hasn't been an annual green issue since 2008. stars were showing up to the academy awards in hybrid cars. and there was a sense, you know, we all have to play our part, including the elites. and that has really been lost. and that's why it's got to come from the bottom up this time. >> but what do you think happened to diminish the enthusiasm for doing something about it, the attention from the press, the interest of the elite? what is it? >> i think we're up against a very powerful lobby. and you know, this is the fossil fuel lobby. and they have every reason in the world to prevent this from
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being the most urgent issue on our agenda. and i think, you know, if we look at the history of the environmental movement, going back 25 years to when this issue really broke through, you know, when james hansen testified before congress, that-- >> the nasa scientist, yeah. >> exactly, our foremost climate scientist, and said, "i believe it is happening. and i believe it is human caused." that was the moment where we could no longer deny that we knew, right? i mean, scientists actually knew what well beforehand. but that was the breakthrough moment. and that was 1988. and if we think about what else was happening in the late '80s? well, the berlin wall fell the next year. and the end of history was declared. and, you know, climate change in a sense, it hit us at the worst possible historical moment. because it does require collective action, right? it does require that we, you, regulate corporations. that you get, you know, that you plan collectively as a society. and at the moment that it hit the mainstream, all of those ideas fell into disrepute,
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right? it was all supposed to be free market solutions. governments were supposed to get out of the way of corporations. planning was a dirty word, that was what communists did, right? anything collective was a dirty word. margaret thatcher said, "there's no such thing as society." now if you believe that, you can't do anything about climate change, because it is the essence of a collective problem. this is our collective atmosphere. we can only respond to this collectively. so the environmental movement responded to that by really personalizing the problem and saying, "okay, you recycle. and you buy a hybrid car." and treating this like this could or we'll have business-friendly solutions like cap and trade and carbon offsetting. that doesn't work. so that's part of the problem. so you have this movement that every once in a while would rear up and people would get all excited and we're really going to do something about this. and whether it was the rio summit or the copenhagen summit or that moment when al gore came out with inconvenient truth, but then it would just recede, because it didn't have that collective social support that it needed.
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and on top of that, you have, we've had this concerted campaign by the fossil fuel lobby to both buy off the environmental movement, to defame the environmental movement, to infiltrate the environmental movement, and to spread lies in the culture. and that's what the climate denial movement has been doing so effectively. >> i read a piece just this week by the environmental writer glenn scherer. he took a look and finds that over the last two years, the lion's share of the damage from extreme weather, floods, tornadoes, droughts, thunder storms, wind storms, heat waves, wildfires, has occurred in republican-leaning red states. but those states have sent a whole new crop of climate change deniers to congress. >> yeah, someone's going to have to explain oklahoma to me, you know? >> my native state. >> my sister lives in oklahoma. and, you know, it is so shocking that james inhofe, the foremost climate denying senator is from the state that is so deeply climate effected. there was something, actually, i was-- last year i covered the heartland conference, which is the annual confab for all the
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climate deniers. and james inhofe was supposed to be the keynote speaker. and the first morning of the conference, there was lots of buzz. he's the rock star among the climate deniers. inhofe is coming, he's opening up this conference, right? and the first morning the main conference organizer stands up at breakfast and lets loose the bad news that james inhofe has called in sick and he can't make it. and it turns out that he had gone swimming in a lake filled with blue-green algae, which is actually a climate-related issue. when lakes get too warm, this blue-green algae spreads. and he had gone swimming. and he had gotten sick from the blue-green algae. so he actually arguably had a climate- related illness and couldn't come to the climate change conference. but even though he was sick, he wrote a letter from his sickbed
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just telling them what a great job he was doing. so the powers of denial are amazingly strong, bill. if you are deeply invested in this free-market ideology, you know, if you really believe with your heart and soul that everything public and anything the government does is evil and that, you know, our liberation will come from liberating corporations, then climate change fundamentally challenges your worldview, precisely because we have to regulate. we have to plan. we can't leave everything to the free market. in fact, climate change is, i would argue, the greatest single free-market failure. this is what happens when you don't regulate corporations and you allow them to treat the atmosphere as an open sewer. so it isn't just, "okay, the fossil fuel companies want to protect their profits." it's that it's that this science threatens a worldview. and when you dig deeper, when you drill deeper into those statistics about the drop in belief in climate change, what you see is that democrats still
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believe in in climate change, in the 70th percentile. that whole drop of belief, drop off in belief has happened on the right side of the political spectrum. so the most reliable predictor of whether or not somebody believes that climate change is real is what their views are on a range of other political subjects. you know, what do you think about abortion? what is your view of taxes? and what you find is that people who have very strong, conservative political beliefs cannot deal with this science, because it threatens everything else they believe. >> do you really believe, are you convinced that there are no free-market solutions? there's no way to let the market help us solve this crisis? >> no, absolutely the market can play a role. there are things that government can do to incentivize the free market to do a better job, yes. but is that a replacement for getting in the way, actively, of the fossil fuel industry and preventing them from destroying our chances of a future on a livable planet? it's not a replacement. we have to do both. yes, we need these market incentives on the one hand to encourage renewable energy.
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but we also need a government that's willing to say no. no, you can't mine the alberta tar sands and burn enough carbon that you will have game over for the climate as james hansen has said. >> but i'm one of those who is the other end of the corporation. i mean, we had a crisis in new york the last two weeks. we couldn't get gasoline for the indispensable vehicles that get us to work, get us to the supermarket, get us to our sick friends or neighbors. i mean, the point i'm trying to make is we are all the fossil fuel industry, are we not? naomi klein: you know, we often hear that. we often hear that we're all equally responsible for climate change. and that it's just the rules of supply and demand. >> i have two cars. i keep them filled with gasoline. >> i think the question is if there was a fantastic public
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transit system that really made it easy for you to get to where you wanted to go, would you drive less? i don't know about you, but i certainly would. >> i mean, i use the subways all of the time. >> if it was possible to recharge an electric vehicle and if it was as easy to fill up your car with gasoline, if that electricity came from solar and wind, would you, insist? no, i want to fill my car with dirty energy. no, i don't think you would. >> we are willing to make changes, you know? we recycle and we compost. we ride bicycles. there's actually been a tremendous amount of willingness and good will for people to change their behaviobehavior. but i think where people get demoralized is when they see, "okay, i'm making these changes, but emissions are still going up, because the corporations aren't changing how they do business. so, no, i don't think we're all equally guilt. >> president obama managed to avoid the subject all through the campaign. he hasn't exactly been leading
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the way. >> he has not been leading the way. in fact, he spent a lot of time in the campaign bragging about how much pipeline he's laid down and this ridiculous notion of an all of the above energy strategy as if you can develop solar and wind alongside more coal, more oil, more natural gas and it's all going to work out in the end. no, it doesn't add up. and, you know, i think -- personally, i think the environmental movement has been a little too close to obama, and, you know, we learned for instance, recently about a meeting that took place shortly after obama was selected where the message that these big green groups got, we don't want to talk about climate change and we want to talk about green jobs and injure security and a lot of these green groups played along. >> big environmental groups. >> yea. big environmental groups talked
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about security instead of talking about climate change because it wasn't a winnable message. i think it's wrong strategy. >> he got reelected. >> you know what sfwh? i think hurricane sandy helped obama get reelected. >> how so? >> look at the bloomberg endorsement that came at the last minute? . he believed this was an issue that voters cared about that independents would swing to obama over climate change and some of the polling absolutely supports this that this was one of the reasons that people voted for obama over romney was that they were concerned about climate change and they felt he was a better candidate on climate change. we had a terrible, terrible candidate on climate change and we had a candidate on climate change who needs a lot of pressure. so i feel more optimistic than i did in 2008 because in 2008 the attitude of the environmental movement was our guy just got in and we need to support him and he's going to give us the
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legislation that we want and we'll take his advice and we're going to be good little soldiers and now maybe i'm being overly optimistic, but i think people learn the lesson of the past four years and people now understand that what obama needs and what we need, forget what obama needs is a real independent movement with climate change at its center and it will put pressure the entire political class and there's no waiting around for obama to do it for you. >> why would you think that the next four years of a lame duck president would be more successful from your standpoint than the first four years when he's looking for reelection? >> well, on the one hand, we'll see more direct interaction, but the next strategy is to go where the problem is and the problem is the companies themselves, and we are launching the do the math tour, which is trying to kick off the divestment movement and
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we're kicking off the company where it hurts which is the portfolio and their stock price. >> you're asking people to reinvest, and this is what happened during the fight against apartheid and ultimately proved successful. >> we are modeling on the antiapartheid movement, and the reason it's called do the math is because of this new body of reserarch that came out last yer from great britain called the tracker initiative. this is a conservative group that addresses itself with the financial group, and it identified a market bubble and we're concerned about what this meant to investors. so it's a pretty conservative take on it and the numbers they crunched found is if we're going to ward off truly cat stroastro climate change, the problem with that is that they also measured
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how much the fossil fuel companies and countries who own their own reserve have now currently in their researches which means they have already laid claim to this and it's already inflating their stock price. how much is that? it's five times more. so that means that the whole business model for the fossil fuel industry is based on burning five times more carbon than is compatible with the livable planet. so what we're saying is your business model is at war with life on this planet and it's at war with us and we need to fight back. so we're saying these are rogue companies and we think, in particular, young people whose whole future lies ahead of them have to send a message to their universities. every university has a huge endowment and there isn't an endowment out there that doesn't have holdings in these fossil fuel companies and so young people are saying to the people who are charged with their education and charged with
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preparing them for the outside world and for their future jobs, explain to me how you can prepare me for a future that with your actions you're demonstrating you don't believe it. >> how can you prepare me for a future at the same time that you bet against my future with these fossil fuel holdings. you do the math and you tell me. i think there is a tremendous moral clarity that comes from having that kind of a youth-led movement and so we're very excited about it. >> what do you mean rogue corporation? you're talking about chevron and exxon mobil and bp and all of these huge capitalist institutions. >> rogue corporations because their business model involved externalizing the price of their waste on to the rest of us. so their business model is based on not having to pay with what they think of as the externality which is the carbon spewed into the atmosphere and that price is
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enormous. we absolutely know that the future is going to be filled with many more such super storms and many more costly multibillion disasters and last year there were more billion dollar disasters than any year previously. so climate change is costing us and yet you see this squabbling at the state level and the municipal level over who is going pay for this? the public sector doesn't have the money to pay for what these rogue corporations have left us with, a price tag of climate change so we have to do two things. we have to make sure that it doesn't get worse and at that time price tag doesn't get higher and looking at issues leak fossil fuel subsidies and to me it is so crazy. here we are post hurricane sandy. everyone is saying, well, maybe this is going to be our wake-up call and right now in new york
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city, the debate is over how much to increase fares in public transit and they -- the metrotransity authority wants to increase the price of riding a subway and the price of riding trains quite a bit, and so how does this make sense? we're supposedly having a wake-up call and we're making it harder for people to use public transit and that's because we don't have the resources that we need. >> you've been out on the devastation, why? >> i'm writing a book and the documentary to go with it and we were filming in the rockaways in staten island and in red hook, and also in the relief hubs where you just see a tremendous number of volunteers organized by occupy wall street. they call it occupy sandy. >> really? >> what i found is that the generosity is tremendous.
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i saw a friend last night and i asked her whether she'd been involved in the hurricane relief. they have my car, i hope they get it back. if you see it, tell me. people are tremendous. so one of the things that you find out in a disaster is you really do need a public sector. it's really important, and coming back to what we were talking about earlier, why is climate change so threatening to people on the conservative end of the political spectrum. >> one of the things that makes an argument for is the public here. you need public transit to prevent climate change, but you also need a public health care system to respond to it. it can't just be ad hoc and it can't just be charity and good will. >> when you use terms like collective action, central planning you scare corporate executives and the american enterprise institute and the heritage foundation because they say you want to do away with
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capitalism. >> well, yont use a phrase like central planning. i talk about planning, but i don't think it should be central, and i -- one of the things that one must admit when looking at climate change is that the only thing just as bad or maybe even worse for the climate than capitalism with communism and when we look at the carbon emissions for the eastern block country, they were actually in some cases worse than countries like australia or canada. so let's just call it a tie. they're both really bad, so we need to look for other models and there needs to be much more decent ralization and a much deeper democracy than there are now. decent ral zaegz of what, naomi? >> if we think about renewable energy. one of the things that happened is that when you try to get wind farms set up, really big wind farps there's community
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resistance that happened in the united states and it's happened in britain. where it hasn't happened is germany and denmark and the reason for that is that in those places, you have movements that have demanded that the renewable energy be community controlled and not centrally planned, but community controlled so that there is a sense of ownership, not by some big, faceless state, but by the people who actually live in the community that is impacted. >> you've written that climate change has little to do with the state of the environment, but much to do with the state of capitalism and transforming the american economic system and you see an opening with sandy, right? >> i do see an opening because, you know, whenever you have this kind of destruction there has to be a reconstruction and what i documented in the shock doctrine is that these right-wing think tanks leak the american enterprise institute and the cato institute and heritage
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foundation, they historically have gotten very, very good at seizing these moments of opportunity to push through their wish lists of policies and often their wish lists of policies, after hurricane katrina there was a meeting at the heritage foundation just two weeks after the storm hit. parts of the city were still under water and there was a meeting and "the wall street journal" reported from it and the heading was 31 free market solutions for hurricane katrina and you go down the list and it was -- don't re-open the public schools. replace the public schools with vouchers and drill for oil in anwar and the arctic national wild life reserve and what kind of free market solutions are these? here you have a crisis that was created by a collision between heavy weather which may or may
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not have been linked to climate change and what climate change looks like and colliding with weak infrastructure because of years and years of neglect. let's get rid of the infrastructural together and drill for the oil which is the root cause of climate change. that's their shock doctrine, and i think it's time for people shock. >> people shock? >> which we've had before, if you think about 1929 and the market shock and the way in which the public responded they wanted to get at the root of the problem and they wanted to get away from speculative finance and that's how we got some very good legislation passed in this country like glass steagall. >> right. much of the social safety net was born in that moment and not by exploiting crisis to hoard power for the few and to ram through policies that people don't want, but to build popular movements and to deepen democracy. >> well, the main thesis of shock doctrine which came out
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five years ago before the great crash was that disaster capitalism exploits crises in order to move greater wealth to the hands of a fewer and fewer people. >> yea. >> you don't expect those people to change their appetites, do you, or their ways, do you? because we face a climate crisis? >> i wrote the shock doctrine because i believe that we -- i believed at the time that we didn't understand this tactic. we didn't understand that during times of crisis certain sectors of the business world and political class took advantage of the disorientation in order to ram through these policies, and i believe at the time if we understood it if we had a name for it and the language for it, then the next time we tried it they would fight back because the whole tactic is taking
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advantage of the disorientation and the fact that we often can become child like and look towards, an expert class and leaders to take carry of us and we become too trusting, frankly, during disasters. >> it used to be said that weather, now global warming, climate change was a great equalizer and it affected rich and poor alike. you don't think it does, do you? >> what i'm seeing and i've been tracking this now for about six yea years, more and more there's a privatization to the response of disaster where, i think, wealthy people understand yes, we are going see more and more storms, we live in a turbulent world and it will get more turbulent and they're planning. so you have, for instance private insurance companies now, the first company that was doing this with aig and in the midst
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of the california wildfires six years ago, for the first time you saw private firefighters showing up at people's homes, spraying them with fire retardant, so when the fire came this mansion would be standing and the next one might burn to the ground. this is extraordinary because we would tend to think of fire fighting, this is definitely a public good and definitely something that people get equally and now we're finding that even -- there's even a two-tiering of protection from wildfires. >> if there was even a short-lived airline in florida, i read about, that offered five-star evacuation service in the events of hurricane. >> yea, after hurricane katrina a company in florida saw a market opportunity and they decided to offer a charter airline that would turn your hurricane into a luxury
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vacation. that was actually the slogan. they would let you know a hurricane was headed to your area. they would pick you up in a limousine and drive you to the airport and they would make you five-star hotel reservations at the destination of your choice. why does a hurricane have to be bad news, after all? >> this kind of privatization is what you wrote about in shock doctrine, that privatization of resources, mopolization of resources by the rich in times of crisis further divides us as a society. >> exactly. one of the things about deregulated capitalism is that it is a crisis-creation machine. you take away the rules and you'll have serial crises, and there will be economic crises, booms and busts or there will be ecological crises. you're going to have both. you're just going have shock after shock after shock and the longer this goes on the more shocks you're going to have and the way we're currently responding to it is that with
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each shock we become more divided and the more we understand that this is what the future looks like, the more that those who can afford it can protect themselves and buy their way out and therefore are less invested in these collective responses and that's why there has to be a whole other way of responding to this crisis. >> you wrote that climate change can be a historic moment to usher in the next great wave of progressive change. >> it can be and it must be. it's our only chance. this is -- i believe it's the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced and we've been kidding ourselves about what it's going to take to get our emissions down to the extent that they need to go down, you talk about the lower emissions and that's such a huge shift and i don't mean to beat up on the big environmental groups because they do fantastic work, but i
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think that part of the reason why public opinion on this issue has been so shaky is that it doesn't add up to say to the public this is armageddon. you say the solution can be very minor. you can change the light bulb and you can have the complicated piece of legislation that you don't understand and that basically means that companies here can keep on polluting, but they're going to trade their carbon emissions and someone else will plant trees on the other side of the planet and people look at that and go, if this was a crisis wouldn't we be responding more aggressively? would we be responding in the way that we responded in the past during war times when there's been that kind of a collective sense of shared responsiblity? i think when we really do feel that sense of urgency about an issue, and i believe we should feel it about climate change, we are willing to sacrifice and we have shown that in the past, but
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whether you hold up a supposed emergency and actually don't ask anything of people, anything major, they actually think they might be lying and it may not be an emergency after all. if this is an emergency we have to act like it and, yea, it is a fundamental challenge, but the good news is we get to have a future for our kids. >> naomi klein, thank you for joining me. >> thank you so much. it's been such a pleasure. ♪ ♪ ♪ since the election last week those of us concerned about the amount of money in politics have been told repeatedly, get over it, your concerns are overblown, citizens united is a bogeyman and citizens united didn't make that much difference, really? that's not what trevor potter thinks and he's the expert, you may have caught him the other night advising his clients,
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stephen colbert about the super pac they'd created for stephen last year in the clever move to expose corruption. >> can i somehow give the money to myself and thereby hide it forever and use it in the ways that i wish? >> actually, you can. >> colbert nation is in good legal hands with trevor potter. he knows how the system works. he advised george h.w. bush and john mccain on their campaigns for the white house. he helped draft the mccain-feingold reform act, chaired the commission and founded the campaign legal center and that's a nonpartisan group working with other campaign finance reformers to counter the influence of the $6 billion election. welcome back, trevor. >> thank you very much. nice to be here. >> so did the money matter or not? >> let me give you an analogy that you would appreciate on the east coast which is if you have
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a hurricane and you come out ask say i'm still alive, do you stop worrying about hurricanes? no, and i think that's where we a are. the tidal wave of money is there. it left lots of democrats standing. it was nowhere near what the super pacs hoped it would be on the republican side in the senate races and obviously it didn't elect governor romney, but they had a huge influence on the race and the next elections. >> i've heard so many people say since the election, this proves that big money didn't make that much of a difference because it was sort of a wash. >> i think there are a couple of ways that actually made a big difference this year. the first one which is counterintuitive is it may have actually badly injured romney and the reason for that is after citizens united you had these so-called candidate super pacs and in the republican primaries
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last spring you had romney who was widely the leader and assumed to have it wrapped up and then you had two other candidates who came up and had millions of dollars spent on their behalf by super pacs and kept the race open. they were the gingrich candidacy and his super pac and the santorum one. what it meant was that instead of wrapping thins up in february, romney waited, had all of these primaries where he was attacked and he ended up the primary season somewhat wounded because these republican super pacs had run really vicious ads against them and he was broke. now, if that hadn't happened, if we had not had super pacs romney would have raised money and the other candidates would not have. they raised millions themselves virtually. the millionaires and billionaires funded them. each of them had one billionaire that kept them in the race and if that hadn't happened they would have had no money to pay
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for gas in a car. they would have been out. >> you're saying the billionaires kept it going? >> absolutely. they kept them going for months in the way that the public never would have and they attacked, used the billionaire's money to attack romney. he had to spend his money to defend himself and raise a lot of money through his super pac to defend himself, but the result was the election took much longer to get a republican nominee than the republicans had hoped and romney was broke starting. if you look at what the democrats are saying now, it was we had an advantage because we were sitting lying in wait for them. obama had raised hundreds of millions of dollars that he could spend on advertising to define romney in the early summer and the romney campaign couldn't hit back because it didn't have the money. >> do you realize what you're acknowledging or even conceding that although the billionaires may not have gotten what they wanted, the republican nominee, they set the agenda by spending
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money on these candidates who had to drop out. >> i think that's entirely true. the billionaires in many ways drove the republican primary race. it was their advertising. if you look at the spending, candidates can't raise money for the ads and in both the gingrich and santorum cases, just one billionaire each. so you have two billionaires speaking and the collateral damage is governor romney. so i think republicans are looking back at this and saying we, the party, lost control of the primary process meaning a billionaire or two, not the people. there are people out there saying this is the voes of tice people and it's wonderful to have people involved. this is one billionaire speaking to another billionaire or two billionaires attacking mitt romney and it's a very small conversation, but it clearly changed the race so that's one way where i think they had a huge effect. the other is if i were a democrat and i were looking forward i would say we were
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lucky this time. we dodged a bullet. we had barack obama. he's an incumbent president. he had no primary challenge. he started raising money in april of 2011. so he had a whole year before romney was really each beginning to think about the general election to raise and stockpile money. even so, he just spent the republicans to a draw because the republican super pacs raised and spent three times as much as the democratic super pac, the one that obama supported. and that's what the president urging democratic donors to support it and even with that the republican super pac outspent it three to one. so if you look forward, you don't have an incumbent president and you have a contested democratic primary and you have a divisive one with obama versus clinton in 2008. they'll be where romney was this year. they're going to be broke and they're not going have a list of
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4 million volunteers ready to go and they're not going to have those hundreds of offices all over the key states in ohio and elsewhere because they wouldn't have the money to open them and the republican nominee will be sitting there with substantially more super pac support. just because this time obama as an incumbent was able to spend them to a draw should not suggest that that's what happens next time. >> i read in a couple of places that by the week of the election president obama had attended 221 fund raisers, far more than any other incumbent president in our history in 24 states and the time that is used to raise this money has to figure into our reckoning of its impact, right? >> this is a disaster for the country, this being the fact that we don't have presidential public funding and instead we have the incumbent president of the united states spending that
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much time out trying to raise money for his campaign instead of worrying about the economy, national affairs and international affairs. you may recall one of the debates romney went after obama saying that after the libyan incident you left washington and you went to nevada. that was for a fund-raiser. that's what they're doing and if you think of that many fund raisers, here's an interesting statistic for you. back in 1984, ronald reagan was incumbent president of the united states. he was running for reelection. his campaign had to raise money for the party even though he was taking the federal grant as everyone has until this year in the general election. ronald reagan attended in that year four fund raisers. >> compared to -- >> 221, so we have a president -- this is not an attack on obama. we have a president who is to some extent, not doing their job
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because they have to be off fund-raising. the romney people felt the same way. romney was heard to be complaining in his campaign that he couldn't go out and meet voters and do what he thought he had to do as a can at because he had to spend all of his time in closed rooms of wealthy people to fund raise in order to get his ads up for his campaign. he couldn't campaign. there's a great irony here and so you have two issues here. one is the time that the president is spending doing this rather than his job and what happens to a can at when the only people they meet and talk to and take questions for for months on end are a small group of our society who have a lot of money and certain views? i think the romney 47% comments reflect what he knew the donors think because he spent so much time hearing things like that from this small group of americans. >> did those republican donors, those guys in the room and the big republican donors in
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particular get no return on their money this year? >> i think they did get a return and that's what i think they're going to see in the future and they didn't elect the members of the senate they wanted. they did save some members of the senate and some republican congress people that were under attack. these groups have a lobbying agenda. they have a legislative agenda in washington and they now have a republican party that is incredibly grateful for the time and money spent in this election. the republican leadership wants them to do it again in the midterm in only two years. so they have chips and they have earned and purchased influence. if you are a republican officeholder, are you going to listen to sheldoned aelson when he wants to talk about specific legislative issues when he spent millions of dollars and you know he can do it again? of course, you are. aren't you going to listen to american crossroads which you
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hope will build a structure for the party in the next elections? yes. that's going to be true on both sides. it's not just republican. if you're the big democratic super pac you are going to have your calls taken bee democratic members when you say this is what we need to do. >> i heard you as steve colbert's lawyer advise him that he could keep the money he received from his super pac and transfer it to his social welfare fund and use it for lobbying. >> let me see if i'm clear, i have a 501c4 called colbert super pac 5hh, and i take the money from the super pac and i pass it through the 501c4 into a second unnamed 501c4. i place all of the money inside that second unnamed 501c4 and
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through the magic of your lawyering and the present federal tax code, after i close this and lock it, that money is gone forever and no know ever knows what happened to it? >> you'll know, but nobody else will. >> federal election commission rules say he could have taken the money, written himself a check and gone and bought a yacht. that's permissible because what the congress has done is restricted actual candidates, members of congress and their challenges and said they can't use the money to buy a cadillac or a yacht or other personal use, but none of these other political monies are restricted. so all these super pacs have to pay income tax on it, but if they want to write themselves a check and take it home, they can, but what i was telling
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stephen colbert is if you're not going to do that, then you can take the money basically off the books and put in a 501c4 social welfare organization and move it around. as we've discussed before the c4s can use that money for political ads if they want. you just won't know that it was colbert's money or they can use it for lobbying. >> so there would be another invisible influence over the representatives we have sent to congress that we won't know about funded by super pacs, right? >> some of it may be disclosed through the lobbying disclosure provisions, but no goes roots lobbying has to be disclosed that way so if you run ads or you're generating phone calls in a district or sending e-mails, none of that will be disclosed. >> how do you assess the impact of citizens united in this election? >> first of all what it tells us is the court didn't understand how elections work because they
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thought this spending would be totally wholly independent of candidates and parties and this so-called independent spending were being done by the candidates and parties and that's one reason they were so successful and the donors knew they were close to romney or obama or the democratic establishment so they trusted them with the millions of dollars they got and the corporate shareholders would know what the corporations were doing and through corporate democracy they could object and the reality is the shareholders don't know and there's no requirement to shareholders under the law and most companies don't tell shareholders what they're doing and they certainly don't have the opportunity to object to it in any substantive way and change the corporation's policy. so i think the reform agenda looking forward is going to be -- shouldn't there be a provision for shareholder democracy, and what the supreme
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court talked about in citizens united. should the sec or congress or the states that actually charter corporations, shouldn't they have provisions saying that before a corporation uses shareholder money, it needs their approval and republicans are going say if that's the case, shouldn't we have that for labor unions? why not? if you're going have someone in charge of a group spenting spendsing other people's money and it is other people's money shouldn't they get approval to do that? >> the supreme court said this isn't a problem if it doesn't corrupt. the perception of corruption is also a danger so it seems to me you can't avoid the appearance of corruption in the use of secret money that was given for campaigns. it's one of the real problems with the citizens united case and what they effectively said is that we on high have decided that independent spending in
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electi elections cannot corrupt as a matter of fact and theory, we don't want to hear otherwise, we can't do it and therefore we can have this unlimited spending. the court doesn't want to hear it and that's why they turn back the challenge from the state of montana which said we have evidence of corruption in our elections and they said we don't want to talk about it, we've already decided the case and what's going to have to happen here is i think we'll have to build a record over time showing the many ways in which this spending does, in fact, corrupt or have the potential for corruption. it may be because it's not really independent and the close ties to the candidates and the parties. it may be that it's just not election spending and add that voters are seen, but it's tied to this lobbying campaign and trying to get something from the members of congress who were elected by that spending.
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>> what do the reformers do next? >> the whole enforcement problem we have today has got to be addressed. we have the commission which is deadlocked, 3-3 and that's why we have the disclosure gap and it has five of the six commissioners are in expired terms sitting there waiting for their successors, so i think there's a real opportunity here for the president to take the lead and to say we need a functioning fec. i'm going to work with congress. i'm going go outside of the system and i'm going to look for people who are not washington insiders and haven't worked for the party committees before. i'm going to find people who know something about elections or are independent prosecutor types who have integrity, and i'm going to nominate them to the federal election commission. >> you've been advocating for campaign reform for a long time given what just happened.
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the hurricane of money, are you going to hang it all up and get a gig on comedy central or are you going keep at it? >> surprisingly, as a republican i've actually come to the judgment that we're going to have to have some sort of citizen funding of elections. we're in an election cycle. we're not only a handful, literally, of billionaires that change the way the government came out and we're the principal communicators of the general election and all of the romneys raised. one-third of the american public actually gave money in recordable amounts to candidates. so 99% didn't participate in the recordable amounts which means more than $200 to the canned and
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the what about the rest of the country? they deserve a voice and i think we're going to have to find a way to do that. whether it is some sort of a tax credit or a tax return to taxpayers. republicans always say we ought to be cutting taxes and giving money back to the people. that's exactly what we have to do, give each citizen and registered voter $100 or a voucher of $100 and say we have to give it to a candidate of their choice and the income tax, gas taxes and social security taxes and you go out and fund the taxes that you like. that's how the 99.2%, and there's something fundamentally flawed where the system in order to get elected the members of congress have to worry about the people lobbying them day in and day out because that's their principle source of funding and
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the interests they represent and the problem with super pacces this year is that they upped the ante, and it was not much and then it was millions. the virginia senate race this year was $80 million. 50 million or so from outside groups and the other 30 from inside. if you're a senator and have just been elected and heaven forbid you're up in two years, what are you thinking? >> you're thinking i don't have time to worry about deficit reduction and the fiscal cliff. i have to go to a fund-raiser. i have to raise tens of thousands of dollars every day to have enough money to compete with these super packs and it would be nice if i could find a billionaire that would help me with my own super pac and that means i have to be nice to billionaires who unwant to find the funding for my campaign and hope they'll do a super pac. so you've raised the financial
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pressure where we would like them to be focused on instead of their next campaign. >> trevor potter, thank you for joining us. >> thank you. i axe appreciate it. ♪ ♪ that's it for this week. go to billmoiers.com for league to the sun light foundation and other citizens groups pushing back against the spreading slime of money. and don't miss our special video report from nearby coney island that explores first hand how occupy sandy and the group boomboo people's relief are helping the hardest hit and most vulnerable. that's all from bill moyers.com. i'm bill moyers. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com
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